This is part of the series Shore Stories: Life Along the Lakeshore columns by local residents about their lives.
It was a cold, windy November evening. As I looked up at the large, illuminated building before me, I stood in awe of what was happening behind those glass windows. I gathered my work necessities for the night and said a little prayer as I prepared myself mentally to encounter another shift at Mercy Health in Muskegon.
The second wave of COVID-19 had hit the community, and our hospital was filled with patients fighting this terrible disease with every ounce of their strength. As a postpartum nurse who cares for mothers and babies after labor and delivery, I knew the entire hospital was struggling under the strain, and many nurses and hospital staff had been given atypical responsibilities to aid the increased volume of critically ill patients. I was charged with caring for coronavirus patients.
As a nurse, I have learned that working in health care requires a great deal of flexibility. Each day is unpredictable, and that inconsistency has been amplified by this global pandemic. In some ways, this virus has not altered what I do, but at the same time, everything is different.
To minimize our risk of exposure, we prepare ourselves outside of the patient's rooms, cluster care when possible, and minimize the amount of time spent in a patient’s room. A lot of planning is required before we can perform our bedside care.
As I enter a patient’s room, gowned up from head to toe with personal protective equipment (almost looking like a Martian), I communicate that I will be caring for him or her throughout the evening, and that I will attempt to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. I explain the care plan for the night, in hopes that he or she can see my eyes squint and know there is a smile beneath my mask.
In certain moments, holding the patient’s hand can provide comfort in their darkest hours. Because patients currently are not allowed to have visitors, nurses and other hospital personnel are the only personal contact they have throughout their hospital stay. During this isolating and scary period, I want patients to know they are not alone, that they have an army of people who care about them, and that they will overcome this battle.
Teamwork and heart
Although this year has been distressing for so many, I have seen this virus bring out so much teamwork and heart throughout my hospital. I am extremely proud to work with a team consisting of the most incredible co-workers, who perform amazing acts each day. Every person who works in the hospital — from the physicians to the respiratory therapists, and from the patient care assistants to the environmental health professionals — plays an essential role in the care of the patient. I truly walk among warrior angels.
I am in awe of the heart, knowledge, care, and collaboration that I witness from every single person who walks through those hospital halls. We could not do our jobs without the incredible support we receive from one another, our family and friends, and the community.
To be part of a patient’s life in their most vulnerable moments — and especially during this unsettling time — is a great privilege. It is important to never lose sight of the blessing it is to care for patients.
Although we are fighting an invisible enemy, we can all play a part in hindering the spread by following CDC recommendations — wearing masks, practicing excellent hand hygiene, and social distancing — and having compassion for one another.
Anna Babinec is a 2013 graduate of West Ottawa High School. She attended Bowling Green State University, where she was a championship swimmer. She completed her nursing degree at the University of Toledo. She currently lives in Holland and works at Mercy Health in Muskegon.